The Su-27 series has proven to be a versatile, high-performance combat platform. The Su-30 and its variants such as the Su-30MKI continue to maintain the robustness of this series, making it a powerful tool on the modern battlefield.

Indian Sukhoi Su-30MKI review on Dung Tran Military channel

Tensions on the China-India border in 2020

In June 2020, a serious conflict broke out on the Sino-Indian border. Tensions are raising concerns about a threat to regional peace. This is considered the most serious clash between India and China since 1975.

Military experts say the increased confrontation in recent months may stem from the fact that India has been building routes and airports to close the gap with China’s superior infrastructure in the region along the border.

Immediately, the Indian Air Force deployed military aircraft to the border areas with China, including the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000 and Jaguar. These planes have been dispatched to forward bases to increase deterrent power and react in case of need. Of these, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the most notable. It is considered the most reliable military aircraft of the Indian Air Force, and is the country’s first line of defense in the event of a conflict.

The Su-30MKI is a variant of the Sukhoi Su-30, developed jointly by the Russian Sukhoi Group and India’s HAL, exclusively for the Indian Air Force. Su-30MKI is a heavy fighter designed for air superiority and long-range mission.

Su-30MKI
Su-30MKI

Background

Development of this variant began in 2000. The first Su-30MKI was produced in Russia, and entered into service with the Indian Air Force in 2002. Then MKI was produced in India, and began delivery in 2004. As of 2020, the Indian Air Force has about 260 Su-30MKIs in inventory, making it the backbone of the Indian Air Force’s fighter fleet.

Since Russian export fighters often lacked some features compared to the original version, India was not satisfied. Therefore, they have mounted advanced electronic equipment from France and Israel on the aircraft, alongside key Russian components such as radar and engines.

The Su-27 series has proven to be a versatile, high-performance combat platform. The Su-30 and its variants such as the Su-30MKI continue to maintain the robustness of this series, making it a powerful tool on the modern battlefield.

Design

The overall length of the Su-30MKI is 21.9 meters (72 ft 0 in), the wingspan is 14.7 meters (48 ft 3 in), and the height is 6.36 meters (20 ft 10 in). As a heavy fighter platform, the MKI has an empty weight of 18.4 tonnes (40,565 lb), while a maximum takeoff weight is 38.8 tonnes (85,539 lb).

Su-30MKI still follows the design language of the Sukhoi aircraft. The airframe is made of titanium and high-strength aluminium alloys. The overall design is a blended wing-body form, combined with a pair of canards to increase the aircraft lift ability and deflects automatically to allow high angle of attack flights allowing it to perform Pugachev’s Cobra.

Su-30MKI
Su-30MKI

The pilot sits in a glass bubble canopy behind the pointed nose, offering a great view of all sides. The cockpit is integrated with customised version of the Israeli Elbit Su 967 Heads-Up Display consisting of bi-cubic phase holographic display. The nose is also a compartment for radar and avionics equipment.

The engine intake ramps and nacelles are fitted with trouser fairings to provide a continuous streamlined profile between the nacelles and the tail beams. The fins and horizontal tail consoles are attached to tail beams. The central beam section between the engine nacelles consists of the equipment compartment, fuel tank and the brake parachute container.

Engines and performance

To cater to a beast like the Su-30MKI, Sukhoi equipped it with a pair of Lyulka AL-31FP afterburning turbofan engines, which produce 123 kN (28,000 lbf) with afterburner. The 3D Thrust Vectoring engines give MKI the maneuverability advantage over any other aircraft in the Indian Air Force inventory.

The Indian fighter can reach a maximum speed of Mach 2, a range of 3,000km (1,900 mi), a ferry range of 8,000km (5,000 mi), and a climbing rate of 300 m/s (59,000 ft/min).

Also, it has an in-flight refueling probe that retracts beside the cockpit during normal operation.

Su-30MKI
Su-30MKI

What makes the Su-30MKI special?

Among the most advanced fighters of the Sukhoi family, the Su-30MKI is equipped with an N011M BARS Phased Electronically Scanned Array radar. It is considered the most advanced radar compared to any aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The radar is capable of detecting targets at ranges of up to 400km and can track targets under 200km. It was also nicknamed “Mini-AWACS” due to the effective range of the radar.

The Su-30MKI is also equipped with the OLS-30 Laser Optical Infrared Search and Tracking System, which provides day and night FLIR capabilities and is used with the “Sura K” helmet mounted sighting system. It helps in providing enhanced situational awareness to pilot in close-combat maneuvering.

For electronic warfare, the MKI is equipped with the Indigenous “Tarang” radar warning receiver. There is also an Israeli Elta EL/M-8222 jammer, which allow MKI to evading, degrading, spoofing and blinding enemy surface to air missile and search radar installations.

Su-30MKI
Su-30MKI

Armament

In terms of weapons, Su-30MKI is equipped with a 30mm Shipunov GSh-30-1 autocannon. The large airframe size allows it to have up to 12 hard points, and can be increased to 14 using multiple ejector racks. It can carry up to 8.1 tons of ammunition, including a variety of missiles and bombs.

India has successfully integrated BrahMos missiles on Su-30MKI. BrahMos is considered one of the most powerful weapons in India. The air-launched version has an estimated range of 300 to 400 km. At a Mach 2.8 speed, it is unlikely to be intercepted by existing missile defense systems. The Su-30 and BrahMos themselves are powerful weapons, and when one of the best fighter is armed with a formidable cruise missile, their power multiplies.

An experienced air force

As a powerful fighter of the Indian Air Force, the Su-30MKI is frequently deployed in bilateral and multilateral air exercises, giving Indian pilots a wealth of combat experience.

According to Indian media, on February 27, 2019, the Su 30MKI successfully dodged at least four to five AMRAAMs fired by Pakistan’s F-16. The evasive manuevers, chaff and flares used by Su 30MKI have proven its combat capabilities.

On 4 March 2019, an Indian Su-30MKI shot down a Pakistani drone in Indian airspace, according to local media reports.

OLS-30
OLS-30

The Su-30MKI is quite expensive, but is a good fighter

The MKI version is much more expensive than the Russian Su-30 and the Chinese Su-30MKK. Each Su-30MKI has an estimated price of $ 50 million per unit, in 2014.

According to the Indian government, this difference is due to MKI having different specifications from the other two versions. Additionally, it is produced on a smaller scale and incurs technology transfer fees, as well as production licensing fees.

Although the Indian Air Force has just added modern Rafale fighters from France, the Su-30MKI will continue to play a backbone role in this force.

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